Warm Up With RA-Friendly Butternut Squash Stuffing

by Emil DeAndreis Patient Advocate

I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older, my favorite holidays have undergone a shift. As a kid, it was all about Christmas and Halloween. Those were the holidays I looked forward to because I got presents and candy. Now, as my focus has changed from material items — things — to the people in my life, I’ve come to love a kick-ass Thanksgiving meal with friends and family.

This Thanksgiving, my wife, Kendall, and I were in charge of stuffing. Kendall confessed: “I don’t really like stuffing — never really have.”

She’s not a bread person. But stuffing was on the Mount Rushmore of Thanksgiving dishes, I said. We couldn’t leave it out. So, we compromised, and what happened as a result still has my stomach rumbling at the thought of it.

I wanted to share this recipe not only because it's mouth-watering, but because it complements a healthy eating plan for people like me who live with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), with its base of butternut squash instead of bread. Butternut squash is good for bone health and immune system function, and this dish is one great and festive way to experience it.

And believe me: This is not a dish that needs to be reserved just for Thanksgiving. It’s good anytime.


  • 1 large butternut squash peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, about 5 1/2-6 cups (size is important; you don’t want the cubes too big, as they will not interact with the other ingredients as well)

  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons cooking fat for roasting

  • 1/4 teaspoons sea salt

  • 2 Tablespoons cooking fat (ghee, coconut oil, or lard) more as needed

  • 1 small onion chopped

  • 3 celery stalks chopped

  • 1 pound pork sausage (no sugar added for Whole30)

  • 1 large apple or 2 small, cored and chopped

  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries

  • 1 egg whisked (optional**)

  • Fresh parsley for garnish (optional)


  1. First prepare to roast the butternut squash cubes.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the cubes with the 1 1/2 tablespoon preferred cooking fat and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and spread out in a single layer on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

  3. Roast in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, stirring or turning once for even browning. Squash should be soft and toasty brown before removing.

  4. While the squash is roasting, get your other ingredients chopped and ready.

  5. Heat a large skillet (cast iron/ovenproof is ideal) over medium to medium-high heat and add the 2 tablespoons cooking fat. Once heated, add chopped onion and celery and cook for about 3-5 minutes, until softened.

  6. Add the ground sausage to the skillet and use a wooden spoon to break up lumps and stir as it cooks. Cook the sausage with the onions and celery until browned, lower heat to medium.

  7. Add the chopped apples and cook for a couple of minutes until just softened. Now add the salt and poultry seasoning. Lower the heat and stir to combine all flavors. Simmer for two more minutes, remove from heat and set aside.

  8. Once the butternut squash is roasted (it should be light brown and crisp on the outside) add it to the sausage mixture along with the dried cranberries and toss to combine. Now add the whisked egg** to the mixture and toss/mix to incorporate.

  9. Lower the oven heat to 375 degrees. If you used an ovenproof skillet, you can bake right in the skillet. If your skillet is not ovenproof, transfer the entire mixture to a two- to three-quart baking dish and spread out evenly.

  10. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes (less, if omitting egg) or until toasty and set. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired. Enjoy!

Emil DeAndreis
Meet Our Writer
Emil DeAndreis

Emil DeAndreis is a baseball coach, and an English professor at College of San Mateo. His memoir, Hard To Grip, chronicles his journey of losing a professional baseball career to rheumatoid arthritis. He lives in San Francisco with his wife. Follow along with Emil on Twitter @EmilDeAndreis).
Emil is also a Social Ambassador for the RAHealthCentral Facebook page.